Diccon Bewes: James Bond in The Swiss Connection

Diccon Bewes: James Bond in The Swiss Connection

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Did you know that James Bond is half-Swiss? Diccon Bewes uncovers 007's Swiss bonds.

007, the quintessential English gentleman spy. Or is he? James Bond is actually half Swiss, his mother being from Canton Vaud. Monique Delacroix is presumably why he speaks fluent French. And also probably why Switzerland crops up so frequently in the books and films. Ian Fleming certainly knew Switzerland well enough to be quite detailed in his written descriptions, and many of the famous movie sequences are Swiss ones. Here are my favourite Swiss moments for Mr Bond:

Perhaps the most well-known is seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. James (disguised as Sir Hilary Bray) is taken up to Piz Gloria, Blofeld’s mountain-top hideout, which is theoretically near St Moritz (hence the prefix Piz, which is used in Graubünden to mean peak). Piz Gloria is actually a revolving restaurant on top of Schilthorn in the Bernese Oberland (pictured above), and was being built when the movie was filmed. After the film’s release in 1969, the name stuck. Later, Bond breaks into a Bern lawyer’s office, located just next to the Hotel Schweizerhof.

As opening sequences go, abseiling off the Verzasca dam in Goldeneye (1995) is hard to beat – it was once voted one of the best movie stunts of all time. Officially called the Contra Dam, it’s 220 metres high and built in 1961-5. It might look impressive in the film, but this dam in Ticino is only the fourth highest in Switzerland. Since that stunt it has become a popular place for bungee jumping. Rather them than me.

Switzerland appears rather a lot in Goldfinger (1964). Auric Enterprises is actually an aircraft factory outside Lucerne, Bond stays at the Hotel des Bergues in Geneva, and then there’s the memorable car chase over the Furka pass when James meets Tilly Masterson. An Aston Martin on Alpine roads – a perfect 007 moment.

Lastly, the most famous Swiss scene in James Bond history wasn’t filmed anywhere in Switzerland. But that bikini on that beach featured the original Bond girl played by Ursula Andress, or Ursula Undress as she was often called in Britain. The Swiss actress comes from Ostermundigen near Bern, and her role as Honey Ryder in Dr No (1962) set the mark for all the Bond girls that followed. Ursula’s scene-stealing exit from the water was as iconic as James Bond moments get, so much so that it was copied by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.

So many great Swiss scenes for a British spy. Not forgetting that Quantum of Solace was directed by Marc Forster who is himself half-Swiss and lives in Davos. And that was the first Bond film to feature a line of Swiss German dialogue, thanks to Zurich-born actor Anatole Taubman.

One James Bond already lives in Switzerland (Sir Roger Moore has a chalet in Crans-Montana); now all we have to wait for is a truly Swiss James Bond. How about Roger Federer?


Reprinted with permission of Diccon Bewes.

Diccon grew up in Britain but now lives in Bern. He has spent the last seven years grappling with German grammar, overcoming his innate desire to form an orderly queue and exploring parts of Switzerland he never knew existed. And eating lots of chocolate. He is the author of the bestselling book Swiss Watching.

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